After a recent sales mission to China, Explore Marketing reported on developing trends in Chinese outbound travel. Group tours will continue to be popular, as they are perceived to be safer and more reliable, especially for travelers who are less experienced with foreign travel. But now that the US and China have entered into a mutual agreement to promote reciprocal travel, lowered restrictions and extended visas mean that younger, wealthier tourists with better English skills are planning their own trips. We should expect increases in fully independent travel (FIT), and semi-FIT tours with looser itineraries that allow more individual exploration. Many US travel destinations have traditionally relied on tour operators to attract guests and communicate with them once they’ve arrived. If FIT and Semi-FIT travel continues to increase, businesses and attractions that cater to international tourists will need to start translating their own materials. When you are planning your foreign language strategy, consider the following issues:
Your website is your most important piece of digital real estate. But the entire website does not need to be translated all at once. Foreign language landing pages and microsites reassure international travelers that you want to make them welcome, and analytics will help you track use and conversions to help plan for expansion. Keep in mind that professional language service partners (LSPs) use software to create “translation memories.” If website content also appears elsewhere, your language partner can leverage a translation memory to reduce the cost of updates. This facilitates re-use of information like maps and signage, in print or across digital platforms like mobile apps. Whether visitors are FIT or Semi-FIT, providing information in the right language accomplishes two important goals. First, it increases enjoyment and appreciation of the experience. Second, it reduces strain on your staff by providing lots of information for self-guided touring.
Perhaps the most important element of your foreign language strategy is to use professional human translators, not Google Translate. Specifically, you want native Chinese speakers with proven copywriting skills in the area of transcreation. Translators have different skills and specialties, and not all translators can craft messages that resonate with readers at an emotional level. If you are working with a freelance translator, exercise due diligence and make sure they have the skills and experience you need. Being bilingual is not enough. If you work with an LSP or agency, ask them about their recruiting process and make sure they’ve assessed their translators’ skills and experience translating and writing copy for the tourism industry. Your current marketing agency is a good resource for helping you find a language partner and arrange seamless collaboration on content creation in multiple languages.
A final point: Chinese travelers are avid documentarians, and they frequently share their travel experiences on WeChat and other social platforms. You might consider free WiFi a part of your foreign language strategy. Social media is one of the most important sources consulted by Chinese travelers when planning travel abroad, and word of mouth matters. The travel website www.xioayaodao.cn routinely includes lists of “best attractions with free WiFi” in their recommendations. Providing WiFi makes it easy for your guests themselves to become native-language ambassadors for your brand. Also, if you decide to share your own promotional content on social media, make sure you work with an agency that will research which platforms are the most influential for the group you want to reach, and has the resources to create native-language content that feel fresh and engaging.
As the market for FIT and Semi-FIT outbound Chinese tourism matures, sophisticated travelers will appreciate information and services in their own language. Developing a foreign language strategy can be a complex undertaking, but if you work with a professional language partner, plan to repurpose your translated content, and make it easy for your guests to sing your praises, you’ve made a great start.
About MTM LinguaSoft
MTM LinguaSoft partners with clients in Advertising & Marketing and Travel & Hospitality to create accurate, compelling multilingual content for B2B and B2C communications. Our translation and localization services include technical and creative translation, multilingual copywriting, website translation and international SEO, mobile app localization, subtitling and foreign-language voiceovers for multimedia content, cultural assessment and cultural competency training. For more information, visit www.mtmlinguasoft.com, or call +1 215-729-6765.